Keeping warm at home during winter
It’s important for your family’s health that your house is warm and dry. Cold and damp homes are linked to poor health, especially for babies and small children, people who are ill, and older people.
There are many things you can do to make your home warmer, healthier and more energy efficient. Generally homes in New Zealand waste energy. They can be badly designed and constructed, have inadequate insulation or use a lot of energy to heat and run.
There are three key elements to a warmer, drier and healthier home.
To really make your home warmer, drier and healthier to live in, it is important to think about how insulation, heating, and ventilation work together as a system and how each contributes to a more comfortable and healthy living environment.
Ventilation Good ventilation is essential to maintain air quality and remove excess moisture from your home. Having a draughty house is not the same as good ventilation.
The simplest and cheapest way to ventilate your home is to open doors and windows regularly to allow fresh air from outside into your home.
In winter, air your house at least once a day for a few minutes with wide open doors and windows to create a cross-draught. This will quickly replace stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air.
To help avoid condensation problems, ventilate when you turn off the heating – for example, before you leave the house in the morning and just before you go to bed at night.
Ventilation will remove moisture from everyday living most effectively when your home is heated properly because warm air can absorb more moisture than cold air.
Ventilating your bedroom overnight is also important for maintaining air quality, reducing excessive moisture and the risk of mould growth. You can keep a window slightly ajar on a hinge with security latches fitted if the window could be used to enter the house.
Make sure you have good extraction systems in the wet areas in the home (bathroom, laundry and kitchen). Fans or extractors need to be vented to outside your house, not just recirculate damp air, or vent it to your ceiling space.
Tackling sources of excess moisture and dampness and insulating your home are jobs that only need doing once, and are worth doing properly. The initial costs are more than paid back in better comfort and health for your family and reduced energy bills.
Good quality, well installed insulation helps keep the heat in during winter and keep it out during summer. This makes your house easier and cheaper to heat properly, reduces the risk of mould and mildew growth and more comfortable and healthy to live in.
The order of priority for insulating your home should be: ceiling underfloor walls windows The Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme offers free ceiling and underfloor insulation for low-income households in many parts of the country. You may qualify if:
your home was built before the year 2000, and
the home owner or main tenant has a Community Services Card, and
you have children under 17 years, adults over 65 years or someone with high health needs living in your home, or
you are a landlord with eligible tenants.
Heating Choosing an efficient heating system for your home will help you maintain healthy indoor temperatures, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and manage your power bill.
There are lots of heating options for homes, but using the right option for your circumstances will mean that you can keep your home warm, healthy and comfortable to live in while keeping running costs low.
Keeping your home warm is important for your health and comfort, and a good heating system (coupled with proper insulation, ventilation and moisture control) makes it much easier to do.
The World Health Organisation recommends the following minimum indoor temperatures, which are also supported by the Ministry of Health.
A minimum of 18C, or a minimum of 20C for more vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and people who are ill.
A minimum of 16C in your bedroom overnight.
These recommended temperatures apply to all rooms, while you are using them.
As up to 20 per cent of heating can be lost through drafts, it is vital to eliminate them. Block up unused chimneys and stop draughts around doors and windows. You can make your own draught ‘snakes’ by stuffing rugby socks or pantyhose with newspaper or cushion filling.
Tackle dampness to ensure your system is efficient.
About 30 per cent of our homes suffer from problems associated with being damp, and most of our houses have mould. Dehumidifiers and ventilation systems are used to fix the symptoms of the problem, but not the source of the problem itself. Dampness makes rooms unhealthy to live in. In a lot of cases though, it is also a problem that is relatively cheap and easy to identify and fix.
The symptoms of excess moisture and dampness:
Musty smells in rooms that are closed for any period of time
Damp or mouldy clothes or shoes in wardrobes
Mould or mildew forming behind paintings, mirrors etc.
Stains or watermarks on ceilings or walls
Mouldy ceilings and walls, particularly in kitchens or bathrooms
Problems with areas of rotting wood in the structure of your house Damp or mould under the house. Condensation on windows, especially in bedrooms, isn’t necessarily dampness if it only happens occasionally during winter.
There are many things you can do to make your home warm and dry.